Jim Loehr and Tony Schwartz's book (On Form: Achieving High Energy Performance Without Sacrificing Health and Happiness and Life Balance, Nicholas Brealey, 2003) asserts that “managing Energy, not Time, is the key to high performance, health and happiness”. They identify four separate but related sources of energy we each have access to:
- physical energy - the quantity of our energy
- emotional energy - the quality of our energy
- mental energy - the focus of our energy
- spiritual energy - the force of our energy.
The chart shows the dynamics of energy for the physical and emotional dimensions. Full engagement and maximum performance are possible only in the HighPositive quadrant. To sustain this and maximise our available energy we must:
- renew our energy to replenish our energy reserves - most of us are over-trained mentally and emotionally (not enough recovery)
- increase our capacity to store energy - most of us are under-trained physically and spiritually (not enough stress/stretch).
Core to energy renewal is recovery. Following a period of physical activity, the body must replenish fundamental biochemical sources of energy to recover the energy that has been expended. If we don’t do this, our performance deteriorates. We can maximise our available physical energy by breathing deeply, smoothly and rythmatically; eating five to six low calorie, high nutrition meals to sustain our energy throughout the day; drinking 4 pints of water a day; ensuring we get enough quality sleep, doing regular strength and cardio-vascular training; and taking a recovery break every 90 to 120 minutes.
Recovery is just as important in the other energy domains.
- Emotional: In order to perform at our best, we must access pleasant and positive emotions. Any activity that is enjoyable, fulfilling and affirming serves as a source of emotional renewal and recovery.
- Mental: Mental capacity is what we use to organise our lives and focus our attention. The mental energy that best serves full engagement is realistic optimism - seeing the world as it is, but always working positively towards a desired outcome or solution.
- Spiritual energy provides the force for all action in all dimensions of our lives. It fuels passion, perseverance and commitment. Spiritual energy is derived from a connection to deeply held values and a purpose beyond our self-interest.
Whichever the energy modality, the way we increase our energy capacity is by pushing past our current limits and then allowing time for recovery. To build muscle strength, we must systematically stress the muscle, expending energy beyond normal levels. If we then allow the muscle to rest, it will grow stronger and better able to handle the next challenge. This principle is well know in developing physical strength, but it is just as relevant in building “muscles” in the other areas – from empathy and patience, though focus and creativity to integrity and commitment. The challenge in building emotional, mental or physical strength is that many of us shy away from the discomfort that pushing past our current limits causes.